The Gramophone Choice
Coupled with Symphony No 1 (‘Linz’ version, 1866)
Jessye Norman sop Yvonne Minton mez David Rendall ten Samuel Ramey bass Chicago Symphony Chorus and Orchestra / Daniel Barenboim
DG 435 068-2GGA (69‘ ·DDD). Buy from Amazon
The reissue of this 1980 Chicago recording of the boisterous First Symphony (in its original Linz version of 1866) under Barenboim is a very attractive choice, particularly if you don’t mind adding to your collection a superb – eloquently sung, expertly played, exceptionally well recorded – account of Bruckner’s mighty Te Deum. In it, the Chicago Symphony Chorus boasts basses to challenge the magnificent Samuel Ramey himself. The tenor could be better matched, though hardly more ardent. As for Jessye Norman’s all-too-brief contribution, it so ravishes the ear as to leave one frustrated that Bruckner did not entrust more of the work to the siren-voiced daughters of Eve.
In the symphony, Barenboim is witty, affectionate and vital, and the Chicago playing is sumptuous without in any way being bland or suffocating. Here and there one might long for the countrified tread of Jochum, a German Bruckner conductor of the old school, but one can understand DG’s desire to give the best of this Barenboim Bruckner cycle another airing.